How to Referee Adventures

Adventures are the stories to challenge the players and their characters. The referee can use published adventures or he can create his own. The first thing you must do as a referee is create
adventures for your players. Adventures can be as simple or as complex as you want to make them. You can design them completely from your imagination, or take ideas from books and movies.

  1. Choosing a theme or basic story and the goal of the adventure.
  2. Selecting the settings where the story takes place.
  3. Designing the events that lead to the goal, and the obstacles that must be overcome to reach the goal.
  4. Creating the non-player characters and creatures that the characters will meet, and deciding how they will affect play.
  5. Writing any special rules that are needed for unusual events
  6. Writing a final outline of the adventure to guide the referee through the action.
  7. Create any maps needed to define the adventure areas.


When choosing a theme for your adventure, you should consider these three things:
  • What has happened before that led to this adventure?
  • What must the characters do to complete their job?
  • What sorts of obstacles do you want the players to face during the adventure?
Some suggestions beginning referees can use to
create simple adventures are listed below:

  • Explore a New World: The player characters are hired to explore an undeveloped planet. This theme can be used many times by creating new planets with new challenges.
  • Obtain Information: The player characters must search for special information about a place, group or thing and return to their employer with the information.
  • Retrieve a Stolen Item: The player characters are hired to locate and bring back to their employer something that has been stolen perhaps secret plans or an invention.
  • Catch Criminals: The player characters must find and capture space pirates, thieves or other criminals.
  • Rescue Someone: The player characters must locate and rescue someone who is being held prisoner -- a hostage, kidnap victim or a person in prison.
  • Mad Scientist: The player characters must prevent an evil scientist from taking over a planet, setting loose terrible robots or performing some other evil.
These are only a few examples of possible adventures. You could even combine several of these themes into one adventure. You could also create an adventure based on something discovered by the player characters in an earlier game. This adds excitement as players use information they have found in earlier adventures to solve the riddles of another.

The settings or locations of an adventure determine the events that can take place and what animals and events can be encountered; guards and robots can be encountered while searching a secret outpost, but wild creatures and dangerous terrains are more likely if characters are exploring a new planet. Your settings can be as big or small as you want to make them. An entire adventure could take place in a single building, or it could require the characters to travel halfway around a planet.

The settings you select should have a purpose in the adventure. The players should be able to complete some part of their objective at each place. For example, when searching for someone lost in the wilderness, searchers can find important clues at the spot where the lost person was last seen, at the site of an old campfire, at a spot where they find a dead beast with a trail of blood leading away, etc. At each setting, players can discover the direction the person traveled, how long ago he was there and what has happened to him.

When designing a setting, you should try to answer these questions:

  • What is the setting's purpose? When during the adventure will the characters arrive there? Whatinformation are the characters supposed to findthere?
  • What does the setting look like? What are the most important features: where are trees and streams, doors and furniture?
  • What types of creatures, characters and events will the characters meet there? Are there any important plants or weather conditions, alarms or robots? These are not necessarily challenges to the players. They can be used to identify the area.
  • Are there any other important features about this setting? Does it limit movement in some way or hide things from sight? Does it have obstacles the characters must overcome?
As you decide on each setting, write it down, including all special information about the setting.

Once you have chosen the theme and settings for an adventure, you must design the adventure itself. An adventure is divided into several smaller challenges that the players must overcome. Each of the challenges must be placed in a specific setting. When designing an adventure, first determine what events or challenges you want. Each event should provide an obstacle to overcome, a lesson to be learned or an opportunity to gain something that will aid the characters in reaching their goal. Events should always be exciting or provide a puzzle that the players must overcome with their wits. Follow each of these four steps when designing events.

  • Decide what purpose the event will fulfill. Is it an obstacle to fight or overcome? A puzzle to solve? A chance to gain something helpful? Or an event just to add excitement?
  • Determine all the elements needed in the event. Will the player characters encounter NPCs, creatures, robots, foul weather, physical obstacles or security systems?
  • Decide how NPCs, creatures or robots will react to the player characters, and what actions they will take.

Random Events.
Sometimes, referees may want to set up encounters or events that occur randomly, instead of being pre-planned. Usually, random encounters are tied to die rolls that are made at certain time intervals or when characters enter an area. For example, the referee could decide the
characters have a 20% chance of being attacked by wild animals every night they spend in the
mountains, or a 30% chance of meeting a criminal in a seedy part of town.
Random events should be created when the adventure is designed. If you have only one random
event, you can simply give it a percentage chance of happening. If you have more than one random event, you can arrange them on a table and assign a percentage chance that one will happen. Then, if there is a random event, you roll a second time to see which specific event happens. If you have more than one event, you can let each one happen only once, or let an event happen whenever it is rolled up.

[ to be continued ]